Preparing for a Disability Hearing - A Resource List
Disability hearings are, for many social security disability and SSI applicants, the most important step in the process. This is because the majority of claims are turned down at the application level, and an overwhelming majority of these claims are denied again at the first appeal level (the request for reconsideration). Yet, at the hearing level, most claimants who were previously denied will be approved by an administrative law judge.
Why are so many claims denied at the first two levels of the system, only to stand such a high chance of being approved later at a hearing? There is no easy answer to the question. However, the reality is that disability judges, unlike disability examiners, are able to operate independently and have the freedom to decide claims as they choose. By great contrast, a disability examiner must adjust his or her decision-making to the leanings of a unit supervisor. And while some disability claim unit supervisors are fair and impartial in this regard, others are not so fair.
Many claimants, of course, know from the outset, even at the time they file a claim for disability, that eventually they will probably have to appear before a judge in order to be approved for disability benefits.
What is involved in preparing for a disability hearing? Quite a bit, actually. However, the amount of work that will be required by the claimant will actually depend on whether or not the claimant is represented by an attorney.
Claimants who are not represented will face the task of A) becoming familiar with their own case file, B) looking for deficiencies in prior decisions that have been rendered on their claim, C) further developing the medical record (in other words, gathering updated medical records and statements from their treating physicians), D) submitting updated records to the administrative law judge who has been assigned to their case and E) developing an argument and rationale for the approval of their claim.
None of this is impossible, of course, particularly for claimants who may have a medical background (such as nurses) and those who have vocational training (such as vocational counselors). However, for most claimants, properly developing a case for presentation at a hearing will be difficult at best. And lacking a clear understanding of A) the vocational rules employed by the social seurity administration and B) the manner in which claimants are functionally rated based on their medical records, most claimants may have only a very small chance of winning a case that has been presented to a judge (the exception being those cases whose merits for approval are quite obvious and which never should have been denied in the first place).
The option of having representation, of course, eliminates these concerns. And, though a claimant is permitted to have representation on a social security disability or SSI claim at any step in the process, it is actually at the hearing level that representation makes the most sense.
Why is this? Because prior to the hearing level, there is actually very little for a disability attorney to do, aside from filing for the first appeal (the reconsideration) and occasionally checking the status of the claim.
By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's representative will begin to work to develop the case, both in terms of gathering and evaluating medical evidence, and in terms of analyzing the vocational aspects of a case (including the claimant's past work history, and other vocational factors such as age, work skills, and education).
Careful preparation, of course, can easily make the difference between winning or losing a case that is presented at a hearing.
How many cases win or lose at the hearing level? Statistics indicates that slightly better than forty percent of unrepresented cases are won at the hearing level, while slightly better than sixty percent of cases with representation are won at the hearing level.
Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog
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Preparing for a disability hearing - Social Security Disability and Proving you Can't Work
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The purpose of the Administrative Law Judge in Social security disability and SSI cases
Requested a Disability Hearing - Now what?
How long does it take to get a disability hearing scheduled ?
What are the chances of winning at a disability hearing?